Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Shivering in crystalline air,

I watch the edge of day creep

east over the Verdigris valley,

expose bone-white pleading arms

of barren birch and sycamore,

listen to the muster call of crow

scouts, search for prey unseen

overnight by owls and coyotes.


Molding hands around coffee,

I watch juncos in the road cut

move like a murmur, listen

to mourning doves who let

geese fly south alone,

smell smoke of a range fire

flowing north over far ridge –

gray hair blowing in wind.


I must wait for hesitant redbuds

to surge with sap into sun,


fight the fire from growing old,

hope to avoid winter

taking me for the boneyard.

~ Kelly W. Johnston

Kelly W. Johnston is a life-long Kansan, who was born in Lawrence in 1955. After graduating from law school in 1979, he put his poetry on the back burner after majoring in creative writing as an undergrad at WSU. About 5 years ago, Kelly began writing again, and in 2011 his poem, “House Sitter”, won 1st place in the Kansas Writers Asso. Poetry contest. In 2014, his poem, “Landmarks”, won 2nd place in the Kansas Authors Club Poetry contest, narrative verse category. And just recently, his poem, “Trails”, won 1st place in the Kansas Authors Club District 5 Poetry contest. Kelly still practices law, but also loves to spend time on his land in the Chautauqua Hills near Cross Timbers State Park, where most of his poetry is inspired.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, guest editor for Dec., is the 2009-13 Kansas Poet Laureate, author or editor of 19 books, and founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches. More on her here.


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